October 19, 2007

Meet Will Periam, from the UK, who has worked all over the world, married a Brazilian, and is now living in Brazil. Read the following interview where he tells us about some of his most memorable experiences from Brazil and gives some useful advice to newcomers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what do you do etc.?

I am a 40 year old married Englishman with two kids (5 and 3). I am originally from the Midlands, UK, but haven&rsquot;t lived in the UK for a long time now. I work for Ford Motor Company and am presently Treasurer of its South American Operations.

2. When did you arrive in Brazil and what brought you here?

My work with Ford over the years has kept me outside of the UK at my choice – so far 6 years in Detroit, USA, 4 years in Cologne, Germany and now here in São Paulo. I enjoy the challenge of living and working outside of the UK and the ability to travel that this gives me. I came to work in Brazil after I asked Ford if a move here was possible as I needed to learn Portuguese. My wife Monica is Brazilian, and she speaks to our children only in Portuguese. As they grow up I was faced with the possibility of not understanding their conversations with their mother. That, coupled with the many Brazilians we meet wherever we go meant that my lack of Portuguese was starting to become a problem for me. It is a lot easier to learn Portuguese here in Brazil than it would have been in Germany! So here I am.

Monica often reminds me that my life changed dramatically since we met. She worked for Ford in the US for a while and we met there. After a period together in the US she returned to Brazil, and later I returned briefly to the UK, but we managed, with a lot of effort, to continue our long distance relationship. We married in Barbados. I never imagined I would end up living in Brazil while we were dating.

3. What were you first impressions of Brazil?

When I first visited Brazil in 1997 I don&rsquot;t recall having any pre-conceived ideas of São Paulo or of the country. I remember very well the crazy traffic, the often decrepit trucks and the very poor infrastructure. I remember just as well the caipirinhas, picanha and being able to find something amusing in almost every situation. Since I have been coming here every year since 1997 I have noticed the average age of the cars and trucks on the roads reducing and some infrastructure improvements, as well as now the relative lack of inflation and an increase in economic stability in the country.

4. What do you miss most about home?

After my parents recently visited my stocks of marmite and teabags are now replenished, so I am now sorted for another year or so. When I first started working abroad I really missed pubs and English beer (Adnams” and “Old Speckled Hen” to be precise) and English sports. Now I have spent so long away I don&rsquot;t miss the beer so much and the sports I can usually see via TV, bars or the internet. I haven&rsquot;t found anything to properly match the atmosphere of an English pub though.

5. What has been your most frustrating experience in Brazil?

I am surprised to find it difficult to answer this question, not because there are not frustrations here, but because I don&rsquot;t find anything particularly annoying after a few years of visiting and now a year living here. I do find document requirements and bureaucracy frustrating, but then I also like the fact that when I arrive in the country from abroad with my family I use the Brazilian Nationals immigration line because my “children are very tired and a bit ill” (eu dei um jeitinho).

The way that every driver wants to try and gain the smallest advantage at junctions, without a care for the impact on other drivers, is also frustrating – I have a theory that drivers&rsquot; traffic behaviour is a perfect reflection of Brazilian culture.

6. What has been your most memorable experience in Brazil (specific incident)?

We went to visit Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul a few years ago. One of the many things to do is float/swim down several of the freshwater streams/rivers and see all of the underwater life (the current just takes you steadily down the river and with a wetsuit you float). The water is warm, crystal clear and teeming with aquatic life. One of the trips started in a lagoon and before we started off down the river we were exploring the lagoon. The guide called me and my wife over to look at something in the water. We swam over and he was showing us a jacare, which was sat underwater about 15 feet from us, motionless. I guess he (the jacare, not the guide) wasn&rsquot;t hungry and that he didn&rsquot;t feel threatened by us.

7. What do you most like about Brazil (in general)?

I like that it is so different from anywhere else I have lived and that there always seems to be something interesting happening – whether a happy social event, the latest crazy traffic manoeuvre I have seen or the latest corruption scandal in the press.

8. What is your favorite restaurant/place to hang out here?

We live in Vila Nova Conceicão and there is a bar there called Vila Isabel (corner of Helio Pelegrino and Diogo Jacome) which we visit quite regularly. For restaurants it is very difficult to pick just one, and we really enjoy trying new places, but we do like Josephine&rsquot;s, which is also in Vila Nova Conceicão.

9. Do you have any funny stories/incidents to tell about your time in Brazil?

I went to see a Palmeiras x Corinthians football match at Morumbi stadium a few years ago while on a holiday here. It rained HARD throughout the game. The supporters on the top deck were amusing themselves by throwing missiles at the Police who were ringing the pitch. Every time the missiles got closer to the police, their Sergeant would authorise them to step backwards a pace, which simply encouraged the supporters to try a little harder. Also the drainage in the stadium was so antiquated that the drainpipes from the top deck drained a flood directly onto about row 10 on the bottom deck. Lastly, at that time, the stadium had a public telephone box (aureliao) on the field, about 5 meters behind one of the goals – I still haven&rsquot;t figured out why. Oh, the game was terrible, but with all the other stuff going on, it really didn&rsquot;t matter.

10. What difference between your homeland and Brazil do you find most striking?

Most striking for me is that the Brazilian people seem to really try to make the best of what they have – most people always seem to be able to find the best in what they have and are never far from a smile and a laugh (I appreciate that my opinion is from the perspective of someone who really doesn&rsquot;t know their lives and whether they are happy or not). My impression is that people who have so much more in the way of material possessions and stability in Europe often seem to form an opinion that their life is not good enough, that they are not happy and that the world owes them a living.

As I am married to a Brazilian I have had to adapt to far more frequent family get-togethers. As I have been living away from England for so long, I have become used to seeing relatives two or three times a year. Here it can be two or three times a week – and it takes some getting used to!

11. How is your Portuguese coming along? What words do you find most difficult to pronounce/remember or are there any words that you regularly confuse?

My Portuguese is getting better but my thoughts on this change daily dependent on the latest CBN radio conversation not understood (massively frustrating) or whether I have just managed a business lunch in Portuguese (a high!). I never imagined how my written comprehension could progress so quickly, and yet my oral comprehension and ability to speak confidently could lag so far behind. Part of this difficulty I think (I hope) is the huge number of slang phrases and colloquialisms that are used. As a motivation I signed up for the Celpe-Bras exam which is in a couple of weeks time now, and although I am not expecting to do well, the fear factor is a great incentive to practice.

I did have a conversation recently where some people were talking about fishing. I joined in enthusiastically telling them I had been fishing in Brazil just once, in the Amazon, for Piranha. I screwed up the word Piranha however and I wondered why they were falling about laughing at my story of fishing for steak (Picanha) in the jungle.

12. What advice do you have for newcomers to Brazil?

Accept that settling in may take a while: I think that when I first got here I was finding some of the settling in process (documents, finding my way, making myself understood etc) difficult, more so than I felt in the USA or Germany, and the result was that I sometimes would become bad tempered and take it out on others – mainly my wife.

Lastly, try to learn the language and really make an effort to do so – it makes such a difference when you really try to learn rather than “hoping to pick it up”.

13. What are some things that you would recommend for a visitor to do in São Paulo (or anywhere else in Brazil)?

Visit as many different restaurants as possible, the variety is huge. Go to a football match – while there can be trouble at some of the bigger games, it is a great experience. Say “yes” to any invitation you receive as a way of getting into a social life.

Are you a foreigner who has lived in, or is living or travelling in Brazil? Are you a Brazilian who has a lot of contact with foreigners and/or lived outside of Brazil? Are you interested in telling your story? If you would like to volunteer for our interview series, or if you would like to recommend someone, please send a blank email to gringoes@www.gringoes.com with “Interview” in the subject. We will send you the interview questions by return email.

To read previous interviews in the Brazil Through Foreign Eyes series click below:

Jan Sandbert – Sweden
Jim Jones – USA
Mike Stricklin – USA
Edward Gowing – Australia
Adrian Woods – USA
Kevin Raub – USA
Pierpaolo Ciarcianelli – Italy
Zachary Heilman – USA
David Johnson – Bermuda
Cipriana Leme – Argentina
Timothy Bell – USA
Patti Beckert – USA
Timothy Bell – USA
Paul James – USA
David McLoughlin – Ireland
Pat Moraes – USA
Richard Dougherty – USA
James Weeds – USA
Tom Sluberski – USA
Peter Kefalas – USA
Sylvie Campbell – UK
Kathleen Haynes – USA
Matt Bowlby – USA
Alan Longbottom – UK
Eric Karukin – USA
Eddie Soto – USA
Kieran Gartlan – Ireland
Bryan Thomas Scmidt – USA
Emile Myburgh – South Africa
Bob Chapman – USA
David Barnes – USA
John Milan – USA
Chris Coates – UK
Matthew Ward – UK
Allison Glick – USA
Drake Smith – USA
Jim Jones – USA
Philip Wigan – UK
Atlanta Foresyth – USA
Lee Gordon – USA
Carmen Naidoo – South Africa
Lee Safian – USA
Laurie Carneiro – USA
Dana De Lise – USA
Richard Gant – USA
Robin Hoffman – USA
Wayne Wright – UK
Walt Kirspel – USA
Priya Guyadeen – Guyana
Caitlin McQuilling – USA
Nicole Rombach – Holland
Steven Engler – Canada
Richard Conti – USA
Zak Burkons – USA
Ann White – USA
Monde Ngqumeya – South Africa
Johnny Sweeney – USA
David Harty – Canada
Bill McCrossen – USA
Peter Berner – Switzerland/Brazil
Ethan Munson – USA
Solveig Skadhauge – Denmark
Sean McGown – USA
Condrad Downes – UK
Jennifer Silva – Australian
Justin Mounts – USA
Elliott Zussman – USA
Jonathan Abernathy – USA
Steve Koenig – USA
Kyron Gibbs – USA
Stephanie Early – USA
Martin Raw – UK
Sean Coady – UK
Hugo Delgado – Mexico
Sean Terrillon – Canada
Jessie Simon – USA
Michael Meehan – USA
Thales Panagides – Cyprus
Tammy Montagna – USA
Samantha Tennant – England
Ron Finely – United States
Bob Duprez – United States
Peter Baines – England
Youssef Bouguerra – Tunisia
Van Wallach – USA
Lesley Cushing – England
Alexander von Brincken – Germany
Hank Avellar – USA
Ed Catchpole – England
Penny Freeland – England
Yasemin de Pinto – Turkey
Amy Williams Lima – USA
John Naumann – England
Marsye Schouella – Eygpt
Rita Shannon Koeser – USA
John Fitzpatrick – Scotland
Liam Gallagher – Northern Ireland
Lorelei Jones – England
Adam Glensy – England
Tommie C.B. DeAssis – Japan
Aaron Day – Canada
Graham Debney – New Zealand
Silke Tina Tischendorf – Germany
Tanya Keshavjee Macedo – Canada
Frank de Meijer – Holland
Carl Emberson – Australia
Kim Buarque – Wales
Damiano Pak – South Korea
Jonas Helding – Denmark
Pari Seeber – Iran
John Milton – England
Ken Marshall – Australia

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